This is more of a set of thoughts and stories and not a review of a particular product, so bear with me.
When I first started riding as a kid, I never thought much about mirrors. My bikes didn’t have them. And the few that I’d seen on adult bikes were big, ugly metal things that I would never want on my bike. How uncool! Besides, they wouldn’t have lasted a week, or even a day, given how many times I crashed! Such are the joys of growing up as a kid in what was then still the countryside and not quite the suburbs 🙂
Then, when I was a little older, I started riding for transportation; to school, to the store. Still, no mirrors. I just looked over my shoulder. Eventually, cycling became a sport for me as well. And no racing bike ever had any mirror on it! Down in the handlebar drops, a quick glance through between my arm and torso was all I needed. Plus, most of the time where I rode, you could tell if someone was behind you because you could hear them.
After a few years off of riding due to wrist discomfort, I decided to get back into it on recumbents. Well, there I discovered mirrors! Almost every recumbent has at least a left, or traffic side mirror. England, Japan, Australia, and other countries that drive on the left, have them on the right. Many have both. Why? Well, because mirrors make riding easier when it isn’t as simple as looking over your shoulder. The backrests on most recumbents make this less practical, especially on sportier recumbents with really low, shallowly reclined seats.
Once my wrist issues had been healed, I started riding regular upright bikes again, especially in the city, where they’re usually more maneuverable than a recumbent.
And I discovered something: now that I was older and not so flexible in the neck any more, looking over my shoulders all the time got to be pretty uncomfortable and annoying. Plus, I was now riding in heavier traffic; living in the city or on bike paths (something that didn’t exist when I started riding), and there’s always someone behind you. But it’s nice to know approximately where they are, and constantly looking over my shoulder, just to know if I could move left a few inches to avoid the pile of broken glass or enormous potholes we have in the northeast was a real pain. Literally. So, as they say: “I got religion”.
THE THING IS, I’M CONVINCED THERE IS NO PERFECT MIRROR.
Sometimes, we’re asked at EVELO why we don’t put mirrors on our bikes. The reason we don’t is because there are so many choices, and everyone is different. Do you want regular, or “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”? High up or low down? Big and prominent or more compact and less likely to get damaged? Paper, ahem, I mean, glass or plastic? Glass is optically much better, but plastic is obviously more durable. Here, I’m talking about the reflective surfaces, not the body. The body on almost every bike mirror is high impact plastic.
Then there’s helmet/eyeglass mounted mirrors. Some people love these, because a small movement of the head gives a wide field of view. Others hate them, because they can be hard to adapt to. For me, they’re troublesome. I see (hah!) the benefits, but my focus tends to adjust for the object that is very close to my face (the mirror) and not the object I’m trying to see (the car/motorcycle/truck/bear/tiger/whatever). So again, problems.
This sounds grim, but in practice, it’s just something we all learn to deal with, like mosquitoes on a lovely summer night. Bug repellent isn’t perfect, but we still use it!
So here’s my recommendations: Read reviews. Amazon is a good source for these. Look at them at your local bike shop, if you have one. You’ll make a better decision for yourself than I could.
When you use a mirror, use it as a supplement to looking over your shoulder if at all possible. Some people find that moving their whole torso instead of just their head is a bit easier on their bodies. Especially in traffic, I’d never try to move over in traffic to make a left turn without doing that, the same as I would in my car. That’s why trucks have several giant mirrors on each side and markings on the back that say “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you”. Their drivers don’t have the luxury of being able to look over their shoulders. We mostly do, so mirrors are a helper, but not a complete replacement.
Some people ask if they’re needed on trails. Absolutely! You never know when someone faster is coming up behind you. So while you may think you are the fast one, passing the parent walking with their two toddlers on their bikes with training wheels, there may be someone even faster than you! And while etiquette says you should ring your bell or otherwise let the person you are passing you are doing so, not everyone is so polite, and even if it’s the other rider’s fault that there was a crash, that’s little of comfort to your skinned knee 🙂
So. Mirrors. Use them!
And finally, because I know if you’ve gotten this far, you’re wondering, this is the mirror I usually use: Third Eye Bar End Bicycle Mirror
As I said, it’s not perfect, but it’s readily available, has a wide field of view, and it’s cheap, and for me, that’s a big deal. Because I still break them 🙂 Not once a day, but I go through a couple a year. Usually not by crashing, thankfully, but because as a lover of bicycles, my garage runneth over and it’s really easy to break off the mirror on one bike when moving another, especially at the end of a long day of riding.
In the never ending quest for the perfect mirror, my next new one will be this: Ultralite German Mirror by D+D Oberlauda . At 3 times the price, I suspect I’ll be a little more sad when I break it…
Do you use a rear-view mirror on your bike? Let me know what your like and dislike about them.